Political Animal


May 02, 2013 9:34 AM Supply and Demand

By Ed Kilgore

I’m sorting through all the material—and there’s a lot of agitprop along with the data—on the Oregon Medicaid study, which is being touted by conservatives as showing we should just leave the poor alone and they’ll do just fine. In the meantime, let’s talk about a much simpler issue: why is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz behaving like a jackass all the time?

That’s more or less the question posed by Alexander Burns at Politico today, and here’s his stab at an answer:

Tell a Republican activist that Cruz is disrupting the decorum of the Senate, and they will more than likely respond: Good!
“The culture of the Senate has to change, because the direction of the country has to change,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, a key Cruz backer during the 2012 Texas GOP Senate primary.
Republican strategist Dave Carney, who worked for Cruz’s 2012 primary opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, said part of Cruz’s appeal is that he “doesn’t really care about the tribal traditions and kabuki dance of Washington and the Senate.”
“The establishment disdain and mocking, I think, feeds his willingness to continue to do what he’s doing. If he wasn’t being effective or having an impact, we wouldn’t be hearing much about him,” Carney said.
The hostility of Cruz’s fellow senators would make it difficult for him to help broker a grand bargain on immigration reform or debt reduction — if he were interested in doing anything of the kind. So far, there’s little indication that Cruz wants to be a master deal maker.

If you haven’t by now, take a look at that new William and Mary study of the Tea Party Movement. At least half of Republican “base” voters don’t like their own party because they don’t think it’s conservative enough, and they don’t much care about incremental “results” in Congress or anywhere else; they pretty much want to burn the whole house (or the whole “welfare state”) down. For these folks, there is no greater credential than having Lindsey Graham suggest you’re too unreasonable to be an effective Senator. It’s legal tender redeemable with endless fundraiser invitations (with which Cruz has been overwhelmed) and instant credibility in Iowa, where presidential dreams begin and end.

Now Cruz seems to have the right kind of “jackass” personality to go with this insight, and that’s important. But unless his ultimate ambition is to become chief lobbyist for the Ball Peen Hammer Association or something, there’s nothing irrational about sacrificing any reputation he might someday build as a legislative whiz in exchange for immediate celebrity as the brave conservative rebel against the Democratic and Republican establishments in Babylon, whom the Lord will eventually smite with fire from heaven.

Any jackass can figure that out.

UPDATE: RCP’s Scott Conroy has a hilarious quote from some former Jim DeMint aide about the junior senator from Texas: “Ted Cruz talks like he’s a walking direct-mail piece.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Th on May 02, 2013 9:50 AM:

    It will take several jerks like Cruz to convince the old guard in the Senate that the filibuster is no longer viable.

  • c u n d gulag on May 02, 2013 9:56 AM:

    He's just like his parties new base - he's letting his inner-freak fly!
    And soar high!!!

    And like them, he doesn't ultimately care about the Republican Party, or the country. Only himself, and those like him.

    I suspect Cruz might be on the Ted Bundy and/or John Wayne Gacy level of sociopathy, only without the sexual deviencies and murderous tendencies - at least none that we know of.

    He sees what he's doing as his path to be the Republican Parties Presidential nominee in 2016.
    And if he's not, well, he'll gladly be a 3rd Party candidate.

    And so what if the Republicans lose because he ran, and also lost?

    Well, there's always 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032, 2036, etc., for the country to come in line with his and his bases thinking, and for him to win - he, after all, IS still a very young man!

    And if not, he can stay Senator, as long as Texas remains Red.

    And even if he loses, as long as there's still a Wingnut Welfare, he'll never lack for a nice check, and a rubber-chicken and cocktails dinner, after his lecture.

  • JMG on May 02, 2013 9:58 AM:

    Th is right. The reason other Republican Senators are unhappy with Cruz, aside from his being a complete asshole, is that he might provoke timid Democrats enough to blow away the filibuster on which his ability to attract attention depends. Without it, he's just another crazy without portfolio like Bachmann or Steve King.

  • Barbara on May 02, 2013 10:01 AM:

    "People who find medical care is affordable use more of it."

    In other news, water is wet.

    There are so many problems with health care in America that it's hard to know where to start, but undergirding nearly everything is the none too mysterious concept that too many services and goods are way more expensive than they are elsewhere, even when adjusted for about every possible variable, including cost of living, liability insurance, sickness level of patients and so on. The "solution" isn't to freeze out whole cohorts of people from getting care, it's to make the whole damned edifice less expensive.

    I know that wasn't the topic of your post but I want to make sure it gets in there early and often when this study is being discussed.

  • sjw on May 02, 2013 10:02 AM:

    Obama could use Cruz to good effect by triangulating between him and other Republicans.

    Could, but won't.

    Better to wait with Jedi patience until 2014 to do something to break Republican intransigence in the Senate. Or maybe 2016.

  • clarence swinney on May 02, 2013 10:17 AM:

    What Happened to America 1980-2009???
    Labor took it on the chin Financials took it to the bank
    Here are awful numbers of our Plutocracy.
    If those numbers do not disgust you are a Republican.
    One family owns more wealth than 90% of families.

    It began in 1981 when Reagan started cutting top rate from 70% to 28%,
    a 60% tax cut for the rich. He increased spending by 80% and Debt 189%

    GW Bush tax cuts with 60% getting 16% and 5% got 48%.
    We borrowed 6100B in 8 years so the rich could get richer.

    Republicans fought to keep 2% tax cut. That 2% own 50% of financial wealth
    and take 30% of all individual income. It includes these incomes in millions-
    4000-3000-2000-1000-500-100-50-10. They need a tax break more than we need jobs and investment in infrastructure.

    Boehner is saying he got a mandate not to raise taxes. Crazy Republican.
    In 2013 budget it projects we borrow 900 Billion. That revenue can be gained via removing Bush tax cuts and cutting tax exemptions for the top 10%.
    We MUST begin to cut the horrid debt that enriches the rich and burdens 80%.
    Get $$$ out of control of government. It can be done.
    In 2009, top 10% paid an 18% tax rate on individual income. Many paid 1% or less of income in Payroll taxes. 70,000,000 workers paid full rate. Top 50% paid a 12.5% Tax rate. 15% more would have balanced our budget.
    Put bottom tax rate at 28% on ALL income.

  • MuddyLee on May 02, 2013 11:06 AM:

    Let Cruz be crazy, crazier, and craziest (tough job but somebody's gotta do it) - and MAYBE the people who don't vote in every election will finally realize that we need to vote against the republicans in EVERY election at all levels until we reach something approaching political sanity. I regret every vote I've ever cast for any republican (there weren't many, thank God) and every "independent tendency" I've ever had. Sure we need to criticize the Dems and try to make them do better in office - but we need to put the republicans into permanent electoral minority status. We can only hope that Cruz runs for prez in 2016 - along with Rand Paul - so that the repub primaries will be as crazy then as they were in 2012.

  • jim on May 02, 2013 12:18 PM:

    Cruz's trajectory is not sustainable. His mo is a recipe for gridlock and even more ugliness between the parties in Congress. Even though he's seen as the guy on the white horse by Teabaggers, the Republican establishment knows he's not good for their party in the long term. He'll become another Allen West or Michelle Bachmann - a caricature incapable of connecting with his fellow Republicans or most of the electorate. That said, I hope he's in the Senate for decades because he'll only damage his party.

  • Qalice on May 02, 2013 1:14 PM:

    why is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz behaving like a jackass all the time?

    Let me go out on a limb and say it's because he is a jackass.

  • Wally on May 02, 2013 2:15 PM:

    This is a long post that can be summarized by the point of view that Cruz/Bachman/King/Limbaugh are NOT crazy. Crazy like a fox maybe.

    There is an enormous profit making enterprise in America based on ginning up resentful, older white America. In their view, their culture (whether mythical or not) is being lost and Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Bachman, King, and Cruz are the only people trying to save it. Saving a culture is not a bad thing; think about indigenous peoples. Even if you don't like a culture, e.g. betelnut or Shoney's, usually efforts to save the culture are appreciated by those who are emotionally tied to it.

    But the people named above don't really care about saving a culture, they care about something else - making money. They are the snake oil salesman of the day. John Bircher was a little crazy because he actually believed this conspiracy laden, racist crap. But Hannity, Gringrich, Beck and now Cruz are crazy, they are simply self serving and destructive. And making millions, selling resentment and suspicion of others. That is why Cruz sounds like a direct mail piece. Or an infomercial or an advert for gold or aluminum siding. Because he is simply selling a product. When the market for this product drops, he will move on to other scams.